A look back at old Archie McPhee catalogs!

A wall display of multiple Archie McPhee catalogs.


To celebrate our 40th anniversary, we though we'd take a look at our glorious catalog. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Archie McPhee was known for its black and white catalogs with murky pictures and long catalog descriptions. They were hand designed by our owner, Mark Pahlow. Here is a description Mark wrote:

 I did the primitive layout for those first few myself. I’d take lousy black and white photos using my Pentax 35mm Spotmatic. Then the photos, developed by the first Costco in the nation, were taken to Bozotronics in the funky Fremont neighborhood to be made into halftones. I’d cut these and paste them onto paper using somewhat toxic rubber cement. With an IBM Selectric typewriter, I’d type out copy to go with the images. 

As you look at the catalog below, you can see the evolution of our catalog and product line over the years. From the earliest one to our latest. 

When the company began, it mostly sold found objects that Mark thought were cool or interesting, but as the world became more connected, it was more and more difficult to find interesting things and a shadow of blandness was cast over the world.  You can see in the catalog when we began to design things ourselves with the arrival of the Punching Nun. It was then the company coalesced into what we are today. 

Over time, our talented graphic designers have tamed the catalog into the weird and wonderful beast you hold in your hands. The streak of rebelliousness has carried it through various eras, from the jump to color to the rise of the internet. Because the catalogs use employees as models, they also stand as a history of the people that have worked here. 

Obviously, we can’t honor the prices in any of these historical catalogs and the vast majority of items are no longer in stock. 

Archie McPhee Catalog #1, 1983

Archie McPhee Catalog #18, 1990

Archie McPhee Catalog, #32, 1994

Archie McPhee Catalog, #56, 1997

Archie McPhee Catalog, #62, 1999

Archie McPhee Catalog, #71, 2004

Archie McPhee Catalog, #73, 2006

Archie McPhee Catalog, #74, 2007

Archie McPhee Catalog, #78, 2011

Bigfoot Magazine, #90, 2019